I have given up on television as something to keep me occupied.


Generation Kill, Evan Wright  June 12, 2004

Wright recounts his experiences riding with a Marine recon group that was one of the first to penetrate deep in to Iraq.  He has a good eye for the nuances and details that contribute to the effective presentation of a person.  Even though the course of the larger events is now known, the subtle impressions of the soldiers in the field are interesting to understand.  Most refreshing is the absence of the programmed pieces that are recited by any soldier that is interviewed on television.  Most of the military members seen on television invariably spout the common party line - "I am here to do my job and follow my orders."  The title is a bit deceptive.  It certainly led me to expect some whiny-ass Village Voice bit about some poor kids who were snookered by some recruiting agent's  tales of world travel and marketable skills.  These soldiers know why they are there and what they must do

Dry, Augusten Burroughs

poorme poorme poorme poorme poorme poorme poorme poorme

please take pity I can't help myself please take pity I can't help myself

whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine

Ugh.  A reminder not to waste time on drunks.

Sellevision, Augusten Burroughs

This is a fun beach book.  Burroughs should stick to fiction. His sly wit is much more enjoyable in a comedic parody than when it is mixed with his self-loathing pronouncements.

Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs

This one was funny, though.

Book Cover Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld.   Fall 2004.

The dumpy nerd girl sits on her ass and watches the world go by.   The book is seriously overhyped.   Some of the quotes liken her as 'the next Holden Caulfield'.  No. 

The characters are flat, and there is far less insight into a school than what I hoped to see.  I read it in several sittings not because I was enthralled, but because I wanted to get through it and move on to other things.  I suspect a publisher saw a marketing opportunity, and rushed this into print.  Should have sent it back for more work instead. Wait for the paperback and get it at the used book store.  Or the library.

Book Cover Cloud Atlas.   Early Fall 2004.

Wow!  This was fun.  This guy takes the idea of a 'narrative arc' to whole new level.   Definitely worth the time.

Juiced, Jose Canseco

The first half of the book is tedious, as Canseco feels compelled to demonstrate that he really is a nice guy.  A fair amount of whining about how the press 'mistreated' him.  The latter third redeems the book, as he points out the giant elephant in MLB's living room.   He lists a lot of names, along with times and places.  This is a very candid presentation of what has been happening in baseball for the past 5-10 years.  No-one, not the owners, the unions, the players, the advertisers, no-one wants to admit that the stars are all using steroids.  Sure, in the spring of 2005 they bounced a few guys out for failing the tests.  An outfielder on an also-ran team like Colorado.  Yeah right.  really impressive enforcement mechanism, guys. 

A Few Corrections, Brad Leithauser

Leithauser starts with something that seems like a gimmick, but ends up producing a very interesting book.  Each chapter begins with an obituary of a man who has recently died.  The ensuing chapter then reveals something about the man that was not immediately evident, and at times hidden from the public's knowledge.  The subsequent chapter opens with the original obituary, but corrected to include the information revealed in the previous chapter.

Leithauser does an excellent job of gradually unfolding the layers of not one but two characters, the 'subject' of the narrator's research and the narrator himself.   This is a nice slice of Americana, refreshingly removed from the effete east-coast intellectualism that bogs down much of American writing today.   Our hero is not perfect; he's dead, so he cannot change.   

Naked Airport,  Alastair Gordon

Nicely written history of the airport.  Gordon presents a well-researched and informative review of airports in the Americas and Europe.  I particularly enjoyed learning of the trends in airport design, and how the thinking of the day about passenger movement influenced the buildings used to accommodate travelers.  Airports 40 years ago  were architectural statements about the reach of man and the contracting earth. Now, they are structures to maximise throughput in processing passengers.  I guess it's no surprise that cabin crews now refer to passengers as 'self-loading cargo'. 

Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger

A week after I started reading this book, there was a big flap about an ABC TV program entitled  "Welcome to the Neighborhood"   This program had a series of candidates who stood to win a free home in a planned suburban development.  The future neighbors would discuss and vote on who would win the house.  Two gay guys with an adopted child, Koreans, Wiccans.   The families making the decisions were for the majority white and Christian.  I'm sure they all went to their CHRISTIAN (Baptists are too liberal) church and prayed, "Pleeeeeeeeeease baby Jesus, don't let any faggots, gooks, Mexicans or freakouts in our neighborhood.  Why can't the TV show give us a white family?"  And then they went home happy and content because they are full of Grace.   No surprise that this suburb was in Texas,  a neighborhood very much like the one that produced the Permian Mojo football.  Bisinger is quite candid in is portrayal of this community, to an extent that the book caused rather an upset in Odessa when it was published.  Buy hey, when your school spends $20,000 to charter a 737 for a football game trip while the English department must suffice with but one computer, you should be able to bear a little criticism.  

Ice Station, Matthew Reilly

I found this in the laundry room of the building.  I was looking for a time-waster, and this certainly met that expectation.

This guy grew up watching action movies, and has not quite figured how to reverse-engineer an action movie back into prose.  He clearly has a distinct visual image of what is happening here, it's just that he does not translate his ideas well to paper. 

If something is really important with action he puts it in italics.

If we're supposed to get really caught up in the action, we an exclamation point!

If it's really important, and we're gonna get really carried away, we get italics and lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The proofreader phoned this one in.  Typos and grammatical errors abound.




Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

I needed something to cleanse the palate after Ice Station. The real pathos here is Charles Bovary, for being asleep at the switch and letting matters get out of hand.   He got what he deserved in the end.

Flaubert wields his pen well in his characterisations.  It's just hard to imagine such foppish behavior having any grounding in this day and age.

PRE-NUP PRE-NUP PRE-NUP.  Separate accounts for everything!